In my last article a couple of weeks ago, I got aboard, finally, the positivity train regarding the brand extension. I’m still broadly aboard, as well, but I’d like to start by telling WWE that I’m still aboard despite of, not because of, the McMahon Family Matters segment this week. I don’t care who theoretically runs the shows, because it’s just a storyline device and one we’re all more than aware of the various permutations of in this day and age. It could be any heel authority figure, any face authority figure, and the storylines, interventions and responses would be the same. So I don’t care one little bit that Shane is running SmackDown and Steph is running Raw.
So I’m not going to talk about it any more than that, but I’m pleased that despite not caring about pretty much the entire main event segment of Raw, it’s going to take more than that to make me leap off my positivity train. Such a death-defying leap would only be prompted by things I care about, but everything I care about, WWE are actually doing quite well on at the moment.
They haven’t done the Summerslam Randy Orton vs. Brock Lesnar feud well yet because it’s only just started and neither are on TV, but I’m excited for it because I think they’ll end up doing it well. I think they’re doing the best they can with the Battleground main event Shield triple threat given that Roman Reigns isn’t on our screens. I for one don’t want to see just Ambrose vs. Rollins because that I’ve seen before quite a few times now – what I want to see is the triple threat, because it will be the first time it will have happened and that’s a big thing for me when watching wrestling. That makes me excited. I’m also excited for the next instalment of AJ vs. Cena, even if I’m not thrilled the rest of the two gangs are involved. Finally, I’m optimistic, if not excited, about the brand extension and SmackDown going live.
So what am I not excited about?
Well, there’s the almost constant whine that relates to the Wyatt family, isn’t there. While they win more feuds than you might think, they certainly don’t seem to dominate and win many matches and they still didn’t do that on Raw this week.
This article isn’t about pointing out what’s wrong though, it’s about finding the positives and there’s actually quite a few in this feud when you go past the fact that they didn’t look that strong, even on their own turf, until the buzzards turned their lights on.
What I like about this segment is that it presented something different to the world, and much like my colleague Ron Pasceri said in his excellent article this week; I’m excited about what that could mean. If they choose to go down these tracks more often – not the Wyatt compound necessarily, but off-set segments, playing up the storyline aspect of a feud rather than just another throwaway match – then I think that can only be good for WWE. Even if it doesn’t work and they just try it, I’ll always applaud that because just doing the same thing over and over again is safe and safe rarely gets you an exciting result.
I don’t care that there were a heck of a lot of parallels between TNA’s Final Deletion and the Wyatt Family segment with New Day on Monday night. I don’t care that it doesn’t really make sense that Wyatt would lock someone in the car and then just, you know, lose him while he’s hitting windows. It was entertaining because I hadn’t seen it before and it was the one non-in-ring segment on Raw this week that I didn’t at least partly fast-forward through.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to see segments like this every week, because having people go to the Wyatt’s compound all the time will get old very, very quickly, but it does make sense to make matches with a faction like the Wyatts a little different to the norm because I’ve always been puzzled when they bring all this mystique, storyline and palpable tension to a feud, only for Braun Strowman to go “raaar” and take a few hits before he goes down, Wyatt to go out of the ring and either Harper or Rowan to eat a pin after which Wyatt laughs. Their matches, for the most part, haven’t fitted the characters we’ve been seeing.
When Kane and Undertaker were at their best they did things that nobody else could do, even if that was partly because of their size and not necessarily in terms of move sets. Their presence, the way they moved, even walked, in the ring, their sit-up version of the kip-up, Kane’s deliberate, indestructible air, it all gave you a different feel to a match than you’d get with Angle or Rock.
I know all wrestlers involve, or try and involve, their characters into their move sets and styles, but when you have something mysterious, intriguing and ‘other’ like you had with Kane and the Undertaker and like you have with the Wyatts, it makes sense to make the matches a little ‘other’ too. I don’t mean the supernatural gimmicks that came during the frankly awful feud with the Brothers of Destruction, but the air to the match should be different. Menacing. It comes from the opponents as much as them. When Taker hits you, you sell it more than when someone else hits you. Little things like that.
I don’t get the same feeling from Wyatt matches and I think I should, but I’m hopeful that following this week they might start to go a bit more down that road, because the New Day are certainly a team who move, wrestle, talk and act like a unit and their matches reflect the three guys’ individual characteristics. You know you’re watching a New Day match and you’d know it if they wore masks and different clothes. If anything, what should be a good (not great) match between the two groups (Rowan isn’t as bad as people say in the ring) should allow the Wyatts to really kick-start that style in bringing something to the table that’s going to knock off the New Day. Or, in defeat to the New Day, Bray realises their style needs to change and it goes from there.
If that happens, I’m pretty optimistic and positive about where the Wyatts could go from there, especially when Harper is back and they can be a foursome (fivesome with Sister Abigail, who I think is needed at this point to freshen them up) challenging on more than one front at a time.
There’s only one more thing I’m not so positive about at the moment and that’s what was a resurgent women’s division. Nothing about this division has intrigued me since Wrestlemania because I’ve seen every combination they’re throwing at me before. I’m not that excited for Sasha winning the title because I know it’s coming, I’m just not sure when. I’ve seen her battle Charlotte before anyway, just as I’ve seen Charlotte vs. Becky about twenty times now. This repetition of matches from such a small women’s roster (or small in terms of women at the same level) really does limit what you can do. Even with only one women’s segment (at most two) on each show, they’re going to be repeating after a while and with just those segments, there’s going to be women who aren’t on TV, as Sasha wasn’t until recently because there’s just no space for them.
I had to try really quite hard to find a positive with this going forward beyond the fairly obvious “Bayley is coming soon” option. Yes, we had the best women’s match I’ve ever seen at Wrestlemania and it’s clear they have three women who can put on matches just as good as the guys’ matches. But it’s only three women – we need much more. Nikki, Natty and Bayley can make up three more. That’s still only six. It’s not a division; it’s barely more than a faction. You could add Emma and Jax to that in time too – still only eight. You need, I would say, twenty to make a proper division involving more than a few showcase matches. Now while I don’t have any confidence that is going to happen, I’m hugely positive they’ve even got to where they are, because I didn’t see that coming a year ago. Wasted opportunity or not, it’s great to see talented women holding their own on Raw as wrestlers, not just as women. They’re part of the furniture now, not just part of the dressing and that’s more than great, wherever it ends up going.
The last thing I’m not quite so positive about, and probably the most controversial here, is Gallows and Anderson. Don’t get me wrong I like them, I like their look, their attitude and I like what they’re involved in now with Cena (not Enzo and Cass though – it doesn’t ring true for me) I’m not positive about it because I haven’t seen them do anything yet which has made me want to watch in the ring. It’s all been pretty standard stuff, frankly. From the hype they had coming in, I was rightly or wrongly expecting a heck of a lot more from them, but they can’t have got so huge in Japan by being this monotonous all the time, so I’m definitely looking forward to much more from them in the future.
I think the garden is more than rosy for WWE right now, and I think the train is rattling down the right tracks – there’s just one more station to get through with the draft, some dark country to travel, and I think we’ll be well on our way to the destination of having two shows, well produced, outdoing each other, or trying to, with new, original content I haven’t seen before.
The draft will have happened by the time I write my next article and that will go a long way to deciding where the positivity train is going to end up, but I’m going to try and learn from the New Day and stay aboard for as long as I can.
What do you guys think about the Wyatts, the women’s division and Gallows and Anderson? Am I being a whiny Brit or do you share my concerns and am I right to be positive looking forward?